"Tears are the strength of women."--SAINT EVREMOND.
THE propensity for a woman to shed tears on the slightest emotion has long been the subject of frequent comment in proverbial literature, and, according to Ricard, "Women never weep more bitterly than when they weep with spite." This common occurrence of everyday life is thus noticed in a popular Scotch adage, which tells us that "It's nae mair ferlie to see a woman greet than to see a guse gang barefit"--the meaning being that it is no more wonder to see a woman cry than to see a goose "go barefoot." Indeed, this characteristic of woman, it might be expected, has not escaped ridicule and censure, for, according to an old Latin proverb, "The laughter, the tears, and the song of a woman are equally deceptive;" which is somewhat after the same fashion as the French maxim, "A woman's tears are a fountain of craft;" and the Spanish proverb, "A woman's tears and a dog's limping are not real." How little is required to make a woman weep has been noticed by Sir Walter Scott, who pictured aright human life when he
"A child will weep at a bramble's smart,
A maid to see her sparrow part,
A stripling for a woman's heart;
But woe awaits a country when
She sees the tears of bearded men."
And, among the many proverbial maxims which endorse this view, we may quote this couplet:--
"Deceit, weeping, spinning, God hath give
To women, kindly, while they may live."
Much to the same purport is the Italian adage:--
"A woman complains, a woman's in woe;
A woman is sick when she likes to be so;"
and the old French saying, which says, "Women laugh when they can and weep when they will." But, as Joanna Baillie, in "Basil," truly writes:--
"Woman's grief is like a summer storm,
Short as it is violent"--
a statement borne out by the popular saying, which likens her tears to an April shower, which is generally sharp and soon over.
But, given as a woman is to tears, grief would not seem to injure her, if there be any truth in the proverb which says, "A cat has nine lives, and a woman has nine cats' lives," an allusion to which quaint belief occurs in Middleton's "Blurt, Master Constable," 1602, where we find this passage: "They have nine lives apiece, like a woman;" and the same idea is conveyed in the proverb, quoted elsewhere, "Though most women be long-lived, yet they all die with an ill-will."
It is generally supposed that a woman who laughs before breakfast will cry before night, with which agrees the Scotch proverb, "Laugh at leisure; ye may greet ere night."
In the evidence given at an inquest on the bodies of four persons killed by an explosion at a firework manufactory in Bermondsey, October 12, 1849, one of the witnesses stated: "On Friday they were all very merry, and Mrs. B_____ said she feared something would happen before they went to bed, because they were so happy."
But even a woman's smiles must be received with caution, it is said, come when they may, for, as the Italians say, "The smiles of a pretty woman are the tears of the purse;" or, as another version has it, "When a pretty woman laughs it is certain that a purse complains."